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Action on bills heats up to beat Crossover Day deadline

POSTED: March 3, 2014 8:15 p.m.

The seventh week of the 2014 legislative session began Monday, Feb. 24, with “Crossover Day” looming a week away. Crossover Day is the deadline in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers or be lost for this year’s consideration.

I am pleased to report the House unanimously passed HB 549, which I introduced last year. The views and experiences of conservation groups, industry and the EPD were all incorporated into a document that will provide increased stewardship over our state’s valued natural resources. The bill will enable the EPD to act as a coordinator of all the state’s resources, both public and private, to effectively respond to emergency issues dealing with our waterways.

The EPD will work with local emergency response directors, industry, and other state agencies to create a clearing house of information so that the response to a spill or other environmental issues can be tailored to the specific situation and will not waste time or valuable fiscal resources to protect our natural environment.

Many of the other bills passed during this crucial week were related to education and the welfare of our children. House Bill 826 provides local school systems with more flexibility in handling violations of school safety zones. Under HB 826, schools would no longer be required to expel students who are caught with items not deemed a threat by local school officials.

Currently, if a student is found on a school campus with these items, they are automatically suspended and charged with a felony. Under HB 826, local school systems will now be able to apply common-sense penalties if they have no reason to believe that the student intended to use the object as a weapon.

Granting local school systems the authority to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis will help prevent a student’s record and reputation from being tarnished with an offense that was actually an innocent mistake.

We also passed House Bill 804, intended to protect children from the psychological trauma resulting from testifying in court about cases of abuse. Testifying before a court is an intimidating task, especially for a young child, and having to face an abuser can be even scarier. The bill allows young victims to testify remotely via live broadcast if the court agrees that testifying before the accused would cause serious physical or emotional distress for the child.

Not only will this measure ease discomfort for victims, but it might also eliminate one of the barriers that prevent them from coming forward to confront their abuser.

Another important bill passed last week was House Bill 459. This bill, which was sponsored by my colleague, Rep. Bill Hitchens, helps increase safety on Georgia highways. Under HB 459, any driver on a divided highway who does not move to the right when a car going faster approaches them from behind could face a misdemeanor.

We hope that this legislation will remind everyone that the left lane on a highway is intended to be used for passing and cut down on cases of road rage in our state.

As we begin voting on more bills and resolutions every day, I encourage you to contact me at the Georgia State Capitol with your thoughts and opinions. My Capitol office phone number is (404) 656-5099, and my email address is

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.


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